Choosing a Topic for Your Dissertation or Thesis
If you have ever wanted to bang your head against a table while struggling to find a topic for your project, don’t worry: you have company. Sometimes it feels like winning the lottery is simpler than finding the right topic. But although difficult, it’s not impossible and we have some advice for anyone struggling to find that perfect topic.
To start with, narrow down your field of search – Are you looking for a project in management, physics or chemistry? Once you decide on a broad field, restrict yourself a little more. For example, do you want to focus on an area of astrophysics or infrared imaging in physics? If you find that too difficult, start by deciding what you don’t want to research. If you’re not very good at mathematics, you might want to avoid a topic involving copious amounts of advanced calculus.
Here are some of the other things to keep in mind when choosing a topic:
Work on a PhD is going to last for at least a few years, so it makes sense to choose a topic that is at least relatively interesting to you. But make sure you are not too attached to the topic; you want to avoid bias in your research. Your feelings should not influence your findings.
Look at journals and research papers, focus on what research has already been carried out in an area and what research still needs to be done. Papers will often give suggestions for future research and that can be a great place to start.
Alternatively, look at Internet forums and blog posts, talk to experts in the field and brainstorm. Look specifically for sectors that a lot of people are talking about and that need to be researched.
The point of your thesis is to contribute to the world of knowledge, not to end world hunger. Try not to bite off more than you can chew when trying to find a suitable topic. A successful thesis is not defined by its topic alone and neither is the success of the researcher. After all, how many people know what Einstein’s PhD thesis was about? (It had to do with the determination of Avogadro’s number).
Repeating research that someone else has already done can become meaningless amidst the vast sea of information already available. But finding a definite research gap can be difficult. If you find a research topic that interests you, try looking for a specific niche that you can contribute to. It could include carrying out research in a particular geographical location or studying a distinctive industrial sector.
On the other hand, carrying out a repeat study can be good to verify earlier findings or useful if you want to test a new methodology.
What are you comfortable with
Various researchers may have specific styles that they are comfortable with. Your research topic should fit into this comfort zone, while still allowing you to push your boundaries. For instance, if you are uncomfortable with organic chemistry, you might want to avoid choosing a topic that’s entrenched in this subject.
Once you think of an idea, write it down. Keep your list of ideas ready and discuss with it your mentor or an expert in the field. Even if it seems extremely silly and of no use, it helps if you have some foundation for your research.
These are just some general ideas to guide you in choosing your topic. For more detailed information, stay tuned for future posts and feel free to contact us for any help.
So you have selected a topic, the next step, of course, is to write a research proposal.
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